Just like this website... Derby is a work in progress.
I became involved with Vinyl lettering and graphics in 1989. Originally the involvement centered around my race cars. I owned a Welding-Fabrication shop in Oakland (1972-1996), where the team of Stoffer & Derby built several sucessful race cars. First, a 427" Chevrolet powered 1931 Ford, a drag race car, shown in the 1972 Oakland Roadster Show. Then the circle track cars, a “Baylands Super Sedan", then BCRA midgets, and later 360 Sprint Cars.
Stoffer & Derby Racing - (before the Gray) L-R, Smokey Stoffer, Tom Moore and Derby. Len Sharp front.
I considered myself a craftsman...with I believe, an artistic eye as well. My partner, Smokey Stoffer is an industrial product design specialist. We both insist that the race cars look outstanding, as well as run fast, and perform competitively!
(All the race cars that were created, and all the success that the Stoffer & Derby Racing Team enjoyed was accomplished by four guys; Smokey Stoffer, Tom Moore, Len Sharp and myself, a pretty amazing feat) We have definitely assembled some good looking and successful race cars!
One thing that certainly contributes to the appearance of a race car is the lettering and graphics design. We took this part of the project very seriously.
After approching a few local, popular, "artists" in a quest to get the lettering and numbers painted on our race cars, I learned quickly that artists don't quite work at the same tempo, or with the same "enthusiasm" that racers do.
We would thrash day and night to build cars in time for the season opener, or repair for a Saturday night race. Everything would be completed, painted and assembled... all but the lettering.
It was in these situations that we discovered that catching a local artist/painter available, or "in-the-mood", wasn't easy.
It was often a major ordeal to get the car lettered nicely, in a timely manner.
Vinyl lettering was becoming very popular, so I investigated that process. I checked out the "franchise" sign stores. They wanted me to pick a "font" from a short list... a "color" from another list, then they would just "type the text" into the computer program, and produce some very generic looking lettering!
That just didn't work for me.
I proceeded to hand draw my layout/design and then shop around to get it reproduced in Vinyl. ( I also continued to read-up on the advancements of the Vinyl graphics industry ).
I found a sign shop in Modesto, CA that would do it, but getting it completed and sized "just right" was almost as involved as dealing with the “hand lettering” guys.
However, this procedure was better; I could have the pre-spaced, completed Vinyl lettering on hand, in "stock" and apply it myself anytime.
By 1994, the Stoffer & Derby Racing Team was at full speed. "Smokey" was providing "first class" racing equipment. We were "looking good", going fast, setting records, winning races, challenging for championships, and having a lot of fun!.
Obviously, It was time to take our "lettering and graphics" program to the same high level!
My research and reading had me curious and excited enough to explore the Vinyl lettering industry. I traveled to Bainbridge Washington to investigate and purchase the equipment that would allow me to draw my artwork design on the computer, and cut Vinyl film on the latest Summagraphics plotting equipment.
Making that trip, and making the investment in money and time was a big commitment for me.
And, then... a very intense learning process followed.
It took a few years for me to master the technical aspects of CorelDraw, Sign Lab and Summagraphics software and hardware. I dedicated a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it. I really enjoyed learning the craft.
I began doing other types of lettering projects; trailers, trucks, boats, store-front windows, anything that required lettering.
"Word of mouth" soon brought sign projects from many types of business and personal ventures.
Much of what I do now is "one-off", original compositions. Logos and product label design is a favorite. I really enjoy lettering Race Cars.
I do the special little projects that the large production sign shops choose not to do. I'm able to spend the time it takes to develop the artwork files until every minor detail is just right.
Every project I do gets my full attention and effort.
I enjoy the challenge and satisfaction that a custom lettering or sign project provides.
Regards, Ray Derby